Letters, we get letters. Must they all be complaints?

I think the final straw was broken in my mind just yesterday. It was a petty comment, no doubt. I won’t mention his name, but the comment that was left on our Facebook page referred to what this person thought was an error in one of our stories.

The story he was commenting on was about Darlington native Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey. Gainey is generally listed as being from Bishopville, although his PGA Tour bio lists Camden as his residence. With so many different locations, I took the opportunity over dinner one night to ask Tommy where he would prefer that I say he was from. He replied that either Darlington or Bishopville would be fine. Knowing his deep connections to Darlington, I chose to refer to him as being from Darlington in future stories.

That’s exactly how I presented it in the story that our  reader had an issue with. Seems that the reader would have preferred that I say he was from Bishopville because in the readers words “people usually uses Bishopville”. Yes, he wrote it just like that. Of course, the reader also went on to tell me that he knew Gainey really well and that, “In fact he is from Lucknow.”

Notice that the reader didn’t say “Great job Tommy”, or “Go get em Tommy”, or “Tommy’s a great guy”, which he is by the way. The reader didn’t say “Thanks for covering Tommy”, or “Thanks for all you guys do”, or “Thanks for providing me with a free service that I pay nothing for yet criticize at every opportunity”. Oh wait, he probably wouldn’t have said that last line.

I’m often amazed when we receive negative comments, or letters. And, boy do we get them. Credit a soccer goal to the wrong kid and a parent will send a note. Fail to cover a JV football game, parent sends an email. Misspell a word, “You’ve got mail”. You get the gist.

Please understand, we really appreciate when someone sees an error and points it out in a nice way. Coaches are usually the best about this. The email will say something like “Hey guys, just wanted to let you know that Mike Jones scored that third goal, not Ethan Smith.” Our response, “Oops, thanks Coach”, and we quickly make the correction. Sometimes though, the team will report that it was Mike Jones that scored the goal and a parent will send us a nasty email telling us to get our facts straight. Who do we believe then?

Just a couple of days ago, our editor (and South Carolina Sportswriter of the Year award winner) was going on vacation and was rushed to get a story in before he walked out of the house. It was a story about wrestling, but in the opening line he referred to it as soccer. I can only imagine that at the very moment he was typing, he was thinking to himself, “Self, don’t forget the daughter’s soccer ball.”

Our nastiest emails by far come from parents of athletes that have been nominated for our Athlete of the Week award. These parents often try to disguise themselves by saying they are something they are not. Of course, they almost always use their personal email address which usually comes to us with the header displaying the name of the writer. Their complaint is always the same, that the voting is rigged, or that we are cheating in favor of one person. They can’t understand how someone got 4 votes in under a minute, not realizing that we have thousands of readers and voters per day.

Let me set the record straight right now, we have never, ever, ever, ever rigged the contest, in any way. Frankly, I’m the only person in our organization that would have the knowledge of the back end programming , and access, that could rig the contest. I’ve been asked several times to do just that, and I always either ignore the request or  snappily tell the person No!.  I simply don’t care who wins. But, I am happy to read about the success of the winner. It’s usually a pretty good story.

These nasty emails are confusing to me. I would expect the parent to say, “Thanks for highlighting my child”, or “Thanks for nominating Ted”, or “Thanks for covering the team, since no other local media outlet has done anything on them in years.” Oh wait, they probably wouldn’t use that last line.

I’ve focused on the negative letters in this piece, but to be accurate, we do indeed receive a tremendous amount of Thank You comments from parents and coaches. For me, those are the ones that really touch me. There have been more than a few occasions when a coach asked to speak to me privately and very passionately thanked me for the work that we do. Parents often go out of their way at events to say Thank You. These are important words to hear, but for me personally, I find the most joy in seeing a story about a wrestler, or swimmer, or tennis player, or volleyball player, or surfer, or tri-athlete. These are the athletes that work year round and have traditionally received minimal coverage. We are able to highlight them and show them that their work is important too.

We’ll keep on writing the stories, and highlighting these kids and athletes. If we make an error, please do send us an email letting us know. But, please, be nice about it. We care about accuracy just as much as you do.

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4 responses to “Letters, we get letters. Must they all be complaints?”

  1. Jennifer Harmon says:

    You guys are great! Don’t let anyone try to convince you differently. You provided more coverage and recognition for more young athletes than any other sports reporting group in our area. Period. Please keep doing what you’re doing.

  2. The longer you do this… The larger readership you acquire… The more recognition you receive… the more criticism is going to go along with it!! People hear & read what they want to hear & read, not the effort or dedication behind it. It’s THEIR little Johnny or Jenny that should get more recognition or less blame for TEAM accomplishments. Thank all of the respondents for logging on and that you’ll try to do better next time… If they don’t respect it, invite them to refrain from visiting your site again. Misspellings and inaccuracies happen in EVERY single story that has ever appeared in newsprint and webcasts. I feel your frustration, but keep doing what you’re doing with the understanding that parents & coaches’ at times are irrational… AND if they can’t accept a mistake now & then… F*#k’em!!!!!

  3. Oh, By the way… “2-Gloves” lives in Hartsville now! He was born in Darlington, reared in Bishopville, but he just built a new house in Hartsville. I’ll take you by there, next time we head through on the way to Charlotte.

  4. Wayne Wicker says:

    As a parent I appreciate all you guys are doing, especially for our local student-athletes. Keep up the good work!

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